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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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Spain's supreme court finds Catalan leaders guilty of sedition over failed independence bid

The leaders of the independence movement were found guilty on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds.

The Spanish court found the leaders of the region guilty on various charges.
The Spanish court found the leaders of the region guilty on various charges.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

SPAIN’S SUPREME COURT has sentenced nine Catalan leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison over their failed Independence bid. 

The politicians and activists who lead the movement in 2017 were charged with sedition and misuse of public funds. 

The sentences were lower than demanded by the prosecution which had sought up to 25 years behind bars for former Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras.

“The Supreme Court has condemned Oriel Junqueras to 13 years of prison… on grounds of sedition and the misuse of public funds,” the ruling said, handing 12 years to three other former regional ministers.  

Spain has been bracing for the court’s ruling, with tension mounting steadily and police sending reinforcements to Catalonia where separatists have pledged a mass response of civil disobedience.

Following a referendum in 2017, which Madrid rejected, the majority of people in Catalan voted for independence from Spain.  

It prompted several mass protests with some of the leaders fleeing to other parts of Europe. 

Today, former Catalan regional Carles Puigdemont called the sentences an “outrage”.

“100 years in all. An outrage. Now more than ever, by your side and those of your families. It is time to react as never before,” tweeted Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution.

The 12 defendants, most of them members of the former Catalan government, were put on trial in February for their role in the banned October 1, 2017  referendum and the short-lived independence declaration that followed it. 

Only three of the 12 leaders, who faced lesser charges, escaped jail time and were handed a fine. 

The government is hoping the long-awaited ruling will allow it to turn the page on the crisis in the wealthy northeastern region where support for independence has been gaining momentum over the past decade. 

But the separatist movement is hoping for just the opposite: that the anticipated guilty verdicts will unite their divided ranks and bring supporters onto the streets.

Activists from the region’s two biggest grassroots pro-independence groups, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, have urged followers to rally on the evening of the verdict.

In the coming days, demonstrators will march from five towns towards Barcelona where they will congregate on Friday, when a general strike has been called.

Activists from the radical CDR (Committees for the Defence of the Republic), have also promised “surprises”. On Sunday they briefly occupied the main train station in Barcelona before cutting traffic on a main avenue of the city.

Anti-riot police have been discreetly deployed to Catalonia but the interior ministry has refused to give numbers. 

The situation is worrying the main Catalan business lobby which said although the verdict would have a “significant emotional impact”, it was important the response avoided disrupting “business activity or social cohesion”.

With reporting from AFP. © – AFP 2019

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